I am about six years old, and just finished my bath. My mother dries me off and tells me to get into my pajamas and wait for her while she finishes bathing my three year old brother.
She will braid my hair, like she has my older sisters who have already had their bath, but unlike them, I will have to go to bed right after my hair is braided and my teeth are brushed.
Those were the best times with my mother. Her love was fully present, and in those few moments her attention was all mine.
I stand looking at the rectangle of sky out of the window in the steamy bathroom, a soft breeze cooling my face as it carries in the evening songbirds’ chirping.
The open kitchen window is full of the dimming sky as I write this, the night birds singing me back to six years old – feeling my mother’s touch and love – the current ache of missing her lessened by this time travel.
Are the birds singing to their broods, hushing them to sleep? Are they, too, happy in their mother’s attention?
My oldest brother rushes into the bathroom: “Mom, look!”
He has a lightning bug in a jar. It’s buzzing against the glass, looking for a way out.
“That’s a special bug. You can look at it for a while, but I want you to let it go outside before bed.”
“Oh, alright,” my brother groans, ruing his decision to show her his prize.
My next oldest brother comes in with a lightning bug he smeared on his arm just as it had lit up. His experiment a proud success.
She tells him to go wash it off as my little brother and I start to cry at his seeming cruelty.
“It’s just a bug,” he sneers, and then they’re off, clomping back downstairs.
“You boys stay in now – and clean up,” my mother calls after them.
The darkening sky has quieted the birds, the light in my kitchen seeming brighter now.
I imagine a mother bird having fed her brood, and cleaned their feathers before bed – their crowded nest all cozy and warm.
A few late birds call out, and then all is quiet again.
The earth is turning from the sun for another night.
The fireflies are lighting up in the dimness, and perhaps my mother is right here, enjoying this moment with me.
If you do not have depression I would like you to offer gratitude to your well-built brain right now – or your lack of childhood trauma events – or be especially grateful if you do not have depression even though you survived immense trauma.
You are a fucking miracle.
You may well be a miracle anyway – I suppose the fact we exist at all is miraculous.
How I wake up:
The weekend interaction with my next oldest sister and a ‘mutual’ friend swims into my consciousness with all its terribleness (and I say mutual loosely because when my mother died, said friend rushed to my sister’s side to comfort her in a haze of pungent smoke, but did not even give me a call. – Never fear, they all heard from me in the weeks after my mother’s death, and I yelled at him for not even thinking to call me when it was my world falling apart too).
Then remembering how my grown son has so thoroughly detached from me that it feels like a mortal wound every time I think of it. In my waking world I reason it all out, and comfort myself, and move on – but in my barely conscious, vulnerable waking moments, the hurt is as raw as a jagged broken bone.
I am genuinely happy for my son’s happiness. He got out of the poverty cycle. He did what every parent wants for their child – to do better than they did. He has a beautiful girlfriend that he just got engaged to, and I have every hope for a content life for them. They are well on their way.
And then she ‘girlfriend-splains’ my own son to me – as though I am just meeting him. And maybe I am.
And then the darkness moves in for its quarry.
All the joy has left my life. Death is a welcome friend. So how to do it? A bridge? A rope? Something quick. I make my plans, and get ready to go.
Now, I know her story is not like the battle I have to do, but the entity in me is just as vile as that nearly-was rapist.
I would like a working relationship with my son, but I do not know how to do that in a mutually satisfying way. I only know how to do extremes, unfortunately, so I am letting go.
I need to protect my heart that has been so battered the last few years. Maybe someday we can have a nice emotionally-distant relationship. I wish him the best life, and I love him with all that I have.
Letting go of the family I want is the next task. The past is gone, and I was probably always deluding myself that I had good relationships with my sisters.
Ahead of me is the hard work of leaving abusive relationships. I will not be my family’s pain receptacle any longer. It is literally killing me, and I want to die for something better than that.
“Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom!” I just kept saying it over and over for several days, as if I could conjure you. I was lost. My guttural howls could not take away the emptiness.
I knew I would not be prepared. How could I be?
I thought our relationship was solid and clean, but regret has inched in anyway. Why couldn’t I save you? Did I do enough? Was I a good daughter, Mom? Did you feel loved and cared about?
I am limited, and I wish with all my heart I could have made your life better. I never got beyond thinking about how to do that, and everything we talked about doing felt like moving a mountain.
I imagine you’re free and flying around in the spirit world – or have you reincarnated (which was your fervent desire)?
It breaks my heart to think you might have stepped into another life – abandoning me again. I was too much for you – your children were too much – so you left, even if not physically. I was a child and needed you Mom. All your children needed you. I still feel like I need you.
I can understand how difficult your life was, and I know you loved us, but love is also a verb.
I forgave you as life went on, and I thought we got whole. I guess the onion metaphor is apt, but how many damn layers are there?
You did make living amends when I had my son, your only grandson. You were such a great grandmother. You helped heal so many of my childhood wounds, but your passing opened them again.
I wanted you to be here my whole life, as unrealistic as that is. I would have kept you suffering in your painful body for my selfish desire to have you near me, like I owned you or something. Like you somehow belonged to me – and I think that’s a trauma bit from when I was so very little, and so much terribleness was happening in our family, and in the world – just like it is again.
You’re lucky Mom. You got out. You’re not suffering anymore.
Do you miss being here though? Or is it better “there”? Where is“there”? Are you conscious? Is consciousness outside of the body, and we just believe it’s in the brain, or are you completely gone?
Please forgive me for my lack, Mom. Please forgive what I couldn’t manage. I don’t know if it was my job to make life the best it could be for you, but it feels like I failed you.
I liked our conversations and our mostly shared values and morals. I am grateful for the time I got with you. I am so glad I was close enough physically and emotionally to help you and spend time with you regularly.
I had wanted to do a “Tuesdays with Morrie” thing with you, but never got it together. I was going to call it “Wednesdays with Mom.” I have never been accused of being original.
Today is Wednesday, so, I guess I’ve begun. If you’re answering me, I’m too dull to hear it. I keep waiting for a sign that you’re still around, but I would doubt whatever you would send me anyway – and you probably know that – so why waste your energy?
Energy is something I absolutely know you still have because of the first law of thermodynamics: energy is neither created nor destroyed. It can only change form or increase. Physicist I am not. I don’t even understand much of it beyond the simplest of terms. Not that I don’t try. I blame my love of standing in front of Dad’s Lincoln Continental and breathing in the leaded gas fumes coming out of the car’s grill for my intelligence deficits. Sweet Jesus, why didn’t anyone stop me? I was 5? Did you even know about that, Mom? I doubt it.
Now, of course, we know that the leaded gas was spewing toxic lead into the air and landing everywhere, especially into my tender lungs and organs and bones as I stood there breathing deeply.
You wanted to make it to 103 years to best your Dad’s 102 years on earth, but you missed 90 by two months instead. Still, not a bad stretch.
I believed you though. My whole life you repeated that like a mantra. You were going to live to 103. It was just a fact we all accepted. You seemed to know, but obviously it was just hope.
And maybe you would have made that milestone if you didn’t drink so much, or if you had let us clean up your mildewing/ moldy stuff trailer while you lived – or if I was able to follow through on getting you a new-to-you trailer, or a tiny house that could have given you those 13 more years?
I know that what I was able to do was worthwhile. I have some sweet memories to savor. My job now is to keep the bitterness from spoiling them.
So many things I’d like to know – please tell me about your life. You think I worry too much, or that I think you’re in trouble all the time, and I’d like to change that.
Are you happy? Is your life as full of joy as it is of challenges?
If I start asking the right questions, maybe you’ll know that I want enough for you, in all your life. Balance is key. Laugh, love, sing, dance, study, question, believe, cry, fail, succeed, care, think, and act.
I trust you and your life path, and that replaces my fear. Believing in you, believing that you won’t waste this short life, or that if you do, that’s your choice, and it’s your prerogative.
My only ‘job’ (I wrote ‘joy’ by mistake, first, but I think it also applies) is loving you. For sure, ‘love’ is a big word. It encompasses all of life – not just the easy or joyful parts.
Life is learning. That never stops, so I’m still learning too. My emotion self is still immature, but my life experience is ever evolving.
Thank you for increasing my growth opportunities, and my dearest hope is staying connected – even as you wander further away.
“Why can’t I go with Lisa and Trudy?”, I begged mom for the third time in twenty minutes. She was cutting up carrots, and celery – and she gave me and my little brother a half a celery stalk for a snack, before adding the rest into the pea mash in the big stew pot simmering on the stove.
“For the last time, you’re too young to go out by yourselves.”
“But their moms are letting them go!”
Mom stopped chopping and eyed me, her lips whiting around the edges.
“Well, they are not your Mom, and your older brothers will take you after dinner, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go at all.” She wiped her hands on her blue and white-flowered apron before picking up the ham-hock and adding it into the pot. “And, it’s the first year your little brother is going Trick-or-Treating, and you’ll have to stay with him” She turned around starting to chop the onions, and I knew I’d be in trouble if I said another word, but I couldn’t help groaning, and I left the kitchen when I saw her raised eyebrows.
I laid down on the couch in the other room to pout, and listened to the wind blowing leaves against the side of the house, and after a while mom began humming, and I could hear my brother playing with his Lincoln log set on the kitchen floor, the sounds making me sleepy. The celery hadn’t made me any less hungry, but mom would just get irritated again if I started asking if supper was done.
I got up and went into the kitchen anyway, and sat at the rectangular Formica table with the bumpy metal trim I liked to run my fingers along. I didn’t like the kitchen chairs in the summer when my legs stuck to the plastic seat. My brother got his head stuck in between the chair top and seat last summer and mom buttered his ears to get his head back out. The stupid kid tried to do it again but mom warned him that she would just leave him there this time.
I thought that sitting at the table would make supper get done sooner, but instead, it seemed to take longer. I liked the way the windows were steaming up though, and I went to draw a finger picture on the window but mom yelled at me that it would leave grease marks, so I sat back down and laid my face on the cool table-top. Mom told me to get up and get the bread out of the pantry and put it on a plate, and then get the bowls and spoons out.
I didn’t grumble this time because I was so hungry and I knew that meant supper was ready! I even got the butter without being asked.
Mom sat my brother on top of the phone books on his chair, and she told me to get my brothers and sisters for supper. I yelled from the bottom of the stairs, making my mom yell at me from the kitchen to walk upstairs and get them, but they were already stomping down.
We all sat and ate our dinner, my older brothers finishing first, and my sisters close behind. I loved the soup so much I wanted another bowl, and mom said there was just enough for seconds.
I hated having to wait for my little brother to finish, but mom let me go get my costume on while she cleaned up my brother.
After Trick-or-treating, the house still smelled like the pea soup, but I was too full of candy to want any more. Mom made us pour out the rest of our candy to see what we could keep, while I smirked at my secret of already eating several pieces until my stupid brother told her we ate some on the way home – and I had told him he could have some only if he didn’t tell mom when we got home. She told us to go straight to bed, adding that if we were poisoned it served us right for not listening to her, but when my brother burst into tears thinking he was going to die she relented and let us stay up another half-hour.
Through the years, Halloween has held a special memory of my mom’s pea soup, but I’ve yet to have, or make, pea soup as good as hers.
101 Dalmatian pajamas, 4T. I breathe into the fabric, trying to catch the scent of my little boy, but I forgot that I washed them before packing them away in the box of baby remembrances when he had outgrown them. The box also contained his cloth Madeleine doll, which showed where the scar was from her appendectomy, and the yellow rubber duck received at his baby shower that he had to have at every bath time. I say ‘contained’ because when his sister, my nearly step-daughter, had her first child four years ago, I sent the rubber duck, after sterilizing it, with a letter, saying that I hoped her daughter would like it, and if she remembered how her brother had loved it when he was a baby.
His sister emailed me after she got the package, telling me how sweet that was, and her daughter liked it too. When we went to visit them a few years ago, it was gratifying to see the rubber duck in among the bathtub toy collection.
She mentioned in a post how her daughter was enjoying the Madeleine books, and I knew it was time to send along the Madeleine doll, so beloved by my son at her daughter’s age, along with a little monkey puppet for her latest family addition, who is now a year old, and I haven’t yet met. I got a note the other day telling me they received the package, and her daughter asked if she could keep the doll forever.
It seemed overly sentimental and silly to keep those few things from my son’s childhood, but I have no keepsakes, and no pictures from mine, so it was important to me, and I thought my son would one day appreciate the link back to his youth. He thought it was cool that I had sent his niece the Madeleine doll, and we spoke about how he used to watch the Madeleine cartoon, and have me read the books over and over. Rather than merely keeping useless things that only had meaning to me, the items became an heirloom of sorts, and re-connected my son and I with a happy memory from the past, as well as furthering my son and his sister’s bond, with her children too.
Keeping sentimental things just adds to my pile of stuff, so I’ve done my best to pare down, taking pictures of things before giving them away or recycling them. Having some tactile link to the past is important to me though, so the 101 Dalmatian pajamas will remain in the (now smaller) keepsake box.
Today my maternal Grandfather would have been 129. He died in the Spring of his 102nd year. My mother’s side of the family enjoys longevity, my father’s side, not so much. My mother’s line comes from hearty French-Canadian farming family stock, and my father’s came from Scots-Irish and English fighting family lineage. My father’s side carried the banner of anger and scrappiness, while my mother’s touted ‘get along and go along’. My father’s ancestors were outwardly ill-fitted to society, while my mother’s forebears had more decorum, but certainly had their fair share of dirty laundry, so to speak.
I loved my maternal Grandfather, but never really knew or cared for my father’s father. I remember him being a somewhat grumpy old man with a mean little Chihuahua named, Tippy, who would growl at you if it wasn’t trying to hump you. That dog summed up my father’s side of the family to me. My uncle, Chuck, was a burly man, like my father, whom I barely recall, but I do remember his wife, my Aunt Shirley, who was so kind, and pretty, having what my mother called ‘spanking blue eyes’. She also had long fingernails and would chase my brothers with her hands curled, claw-like, toward them. She was the only good thing about my Dad’s family, as far as I was concerned. I don’t remember my Dad’s mother at all. I think we visited with them twice, that I can remember, because they lived in another state, several hours away.
My mother’s family lived mostly nearby, which is probably why I have such a drive to stay near my siblings and mother as well. I often think about my mother’s family in terms of how we all ‘turned out’. My mother was the last of eleven children, all born in the depression era, five boys and six girls. My mother was the surprise baby, born after my Grandmother thought she was fertile anymore. My mother was born into a hard-working family, my grandfather and several of his sons worked on the railroad, while several others made military careers. The women in the family mostly ran their families, and a few held outside jobs, or pursued passions other than domestic concerns, but they all fared well, mostly.
My mother is the only child whose marriage ended in divorce, the only child who married an unpredictable, angry man, and the only child, that we know of, whose first child was the outcome of a rape, that she was nearly disowned for keeping after being sent to a home for unwed mothers with the express purpose of giving up her child upon birth. My mother stayed with one of her older sisters for a while, and her parents finally relented and let her go home with my eldest brother. She flailed for some time, but found work, and an apartment, and shortly after met my father. He was in the navy, handsome, and fresh out of a hellacious home life, and a disastrous first marriage.
I saw Back To The Future, when it first came out, and I remember thinking that my life would have been so much better if my mother had made a better choice to begin with. Of course, were that the case, I likely wouldn’t have been born, so it was a moot point, but I would gladly not have been born to have spared my mother from my father.
My grandfather was kind to me, and used to call me ‘tiger eyes’. He would also buy me Lucky Charms cereal, a treat my mother would never have approved of, but he also used to give me Jordan Almonds, which I hated, and still do. I enjoyed visits from my Grandpa Brousseau, and vaguely remember my Grandma Brousseau, who died when I was just three. It’s odd that I still feel connected to her even though I never really knew her. I suppose it’s a testament to how much my grandfather meant to me that my grandmother means just as much. My grandfather was kind to me, but he was also strict. One of the first things he’d demand upon seeing us was to show him our fingernails. It was important to him that we keep our hands and fingernails clean. I guess that was his determination of good breeding. Thankfully, we usually had enough warning of his visits to clean our fingernails before he arrived.
I remember visiting my grandfather in the last few years of his life, and he said how tired he was. He could barely hear anymore, and was fairly blind, losing his two favorite pastimes: listening to baseball games on the radio, and reading the newspaper. He said he didn’t know why he kept waking up every day, and that was one of the saddest things to hear.
It’s hard to see someone you remember as robust seeming so frail and lackluster. During my last visit, when I was in my twenties, he asked me to come sit next to him on his bed, and then he asked me to comb his hair. I wish I had the understanding that I do now. I was so embarrassed because it seemed like such a silly request to me then. I’d give anything to go back with the understanding I have now and comb his hair – and he still had a fair amount of hair even at a hundred. I recognize his request as a way to connect with me, but I was too self-conscious then. It wasn’t like when I was eight and would have combed his hair gleefully. I can’t get that time back, and all I hope is that my grandfather’s spirit knows that I understand now, and that I’m sorry I was so awkward then that he took the comb out of my hand and said ‘never mind’.
Happy Birthday, Grandpa. I love you, wherever you are.
Happy Birthday to my beautiful son. He is the best thing I have ever done, although I take no credit for his amazing capacities and talents. He is his own person; I just ate well while he was growing inside me, and then made sure I fed him good food, gave him as many opportunities as I could afford, or could imagine, and taught him to appreciate reading, which he now loves. His cognitive intelligence exceeded mine when he was about twelve, but my emotional intelligence stills beats his – hah!
He is bound to fare better in his life than I did in mine, and that is the best a parent can ask for. I love you, my dear boy/man.
It was such a lovely morning. My son gave me a beautiful sweater, and he liked the few gifts I got him as well. He really enjoyed his stuffed stocking, and it makes me so happy to see his happiness. That’s the best aspect of parenting. I don’t care how old your child/ren is/are: wanting for, and taking pleasure in, their happiness, and success, is paramount.
We had a scrambled eggs and bacon breakfast, and then we made our Gingerbread house. We don’t have a good track record at that activity. We’ve only made two of them before, both of which came out awful. We didn’t name the first one, but we dubbed the second one: “Sucky, the Gingerbread House”, and this one my son named: “Mediocre, the Gingerbread House”. We did have a lot of fun making it, and maybe any future attempts will give better results.
My son’s feeling mostly himself again, although he still has a cough, and he told me he woke up drenched in sweat in the middle of the night so he left his room and slept on the couch, where I found him this morning.
He left a little while ago to hang out with friends, and while I want him to stay well, it was really nice to have him home and wanting my help and company for the last few days.
1989: I spent the evening with Joe; I moved in with him here in Vernon, Vermont, a few weeks ago. I’m happy that there’s snow on the ground so it will be a white Christmas. My brother, Scott, died in October, and I’m sad for my mom this holiday season. I still feel nothing. I don’t know why death doesn’t affect me directly, I guess that’s a coping mechanism.
1990: Our son’s first Christmas. He’s only two months old, so it’s not really a big deal for him, but Joe’s daughter is spending Christmas morning with us, and she’ll be happy to get the Super Nintendo game system with, The Mario Brothers/Duck Hunt, and, Donkey Kong, games, and spend time with her brother. Things have not been good between Joe and I, but we’re trying to work it out.
1991: My father and step-mother are visiting from Florida. I’m happy that my father is getting to spend some time with his grandson, although it’s been kind of awkward when they’re here because my mom is spending Christmas here in my new apartment.
1992: I’m in my new apartment in South Portland, Maine. My mom is here with me, and there is a lot of snow this winter, which Austen loves to play in. My car broke down a few weeks after moving in here, and I can’t afford another one, but there’s a bus stop down at the end of the street, and a few of the Bahá’í‘s here in South Portland bring me to run errands once a week. Joe is visiting over the holidays, and it’s been horrible and stressful – as usual.
1994: San Diego Christmas is quite different from what I’m used to. It’s not really warm, about the mid-50°F’s, and rainy, but the air feels different, and I’m not sure I like it. I’m at a 10-day program because I don’t want to live anymore but Tammy convinced me to see if this will help me. I’ll get a counselor, and start an antidepressant, and I know it’s what I need to do, but I feel horrible being away for Christmas.
1996: Back in Massachusetts. My mother is spending Christmas with me and Austen in our tiny apartment. Things have been awful. I’m still not getting child support, so that just makes everything tougher.
1999: It’s been a strange year. I’m wondering if the Y2K thing is really going to screw up computers worldwide – I doubt it. I told Austen that Santa was a real person a long time ago, and his spirit still lives on through all of us. The other kids at school were picking on him for still believing in Santa. He refused to believe me when I told him Santa isn’t still alive. I don’t know if I did the right thing.
2001: I consider this the millennium year, even though I know many people considered 2000 to be the turn of the century. I guess it’s both: 2000 because it’s no longer 19-something, but 2001 because CE started with year 1, so 2001 makes two-thousand years. We’re still here, although a bunch of freaks were trying to convince whomever they could that the world was going to end.
2011: I think my favorite aspect of Christmas Eve is filling my son’s stocking. When he was little, it was so gratifying to see his delight, and share in how fun Christmas was for him. He used to love Christmas carols and we’d sing them together, and now he can barely stand them. He’s feeling so much better tonight, but still coughing a lot. I might watch, It’s A Wonderful Life, but I’m feeling tired, so maybe I’ll just go to sleep. My throat is feeling a bit scratchy, and I hope I don’t get sick too.
This year has been so strange. As I looked back through old diaries and read so much of where I’ve been, and what my life is like now, I appreciate now so much. I don’t care if someone reads my old journals someday, but I sincerely doubt they’d read for very long. I’m just grateful that I’m not as affected by the vicissitudes of life anymore. I also did a great deal of healing work to get where I am now, and will most likely finish that work with my last breath. I’m thankful to be alive, and hope I won’t die until I accomplish most, if not all, of my goals.
I’m really enjoying my Christmas tree. Part of me feels bad that a tree was cut down so I could bring it inside my house to decorate and light up, only to discard it a few weeks from now. I’ve struggled with that dilemma the last few times I got a real Christmas tree. I didn’t even have a tree last year, but it really cheers up the room. I’ve bought artificial trees twice now, and used them until I became really allergic (because of all the dust they gather – and likely some mildew too from humid summer weather), and the best option is probably a potted live tree that I can plant in the spring. Although, not only do I like a taller Christmas tree than is reasonable with a potted tree, I’d have to get permission from the landlord to plant it, or find some other land to plant the tree on. Seeing the top of my tree nearly reach the ceiling is satisfying somehow, and no artificial tree has the lovely aroma of fresh pine – no matter how much they ‘scent’ it in the factory.
Many years ago, my next oldest sister and I, along with our younger brother, went to Florida to spend Christmas with our father and step-mother. Our father didn’t want to get a Christmas tree, but we kids decided he and our step-mother needed one, so off my sister, brother, and I went the next day, while my father and step-mother were at work, and bought a beautiful potted Norfolk pine that stood about four and half feet high.
We also bought decorations for it, and after we adorned it, and lit the tree up, the house felt much more festive. A year or so later, my step-mother sent me a picture of the pine, which they had planted in their back yard. It had filled out beautifully and grown about six more feet.
I’ve always felt glad that we ignored my father’s ‘waste of time and money’ objections and got the tree. Even though my father has been gone for several years, and he and my step-mother had divorced many years before that, I wonder about that tree every Christmas. It must be fairly majestic by now, if it’s still there.
Maybe I’ll get a potted Norfolk pine for my Christmas tree next year, although I’m not sure it would take well in our frigid climes.
It felt very odd to not decorate my Christmas tree with my son, but I didn’t want to leave it bare for two weeks. I decided to put the tree in the corner by my bookcases, and I’m enjoying having one this year, even though I think I’m a bit allergic to it.
My lack of skill with a camera made this a kind of cool picture where the light trails remind me of Santa’s reindeer, flying through the air:
Christmas trees look so much better in the dark!
When I was four or five, until I was nine or so, I’d shimmy under the Christmas tree every year, looking up through the branches with un-focused eyes until the lights resembled something like this:
Almost every ornament holds a special memory, or marks stages of my adult life. My first serious boyfriend and I bought frosted glass bulbs for our first Christmas together. He got half of them when we broke up seven years later. I doubt he kept his, but I’m glad I still have mine.
My son made a few ornaments during his grammar school years that bring back those Christmases to me when I hang them up. A hardened dough, glazed, and painted bone he made in his sixth grade class, (the year my mother got a beagle from the animal shelter, and the dog was on my son’s mind when he created the ornament), and a variety of others from my son’s first Christmas, to this year’s ornament that the folks at the tree farm gave to everyone buying a tree, commemorating the volunteers who helped with clean up and salvage after Hurricane Irene’s flood devastation this past August.
I’m so excited to see my son today! I get to have him home an extra day for the Thanksgiving holiday, even though most of his time will be spent with his friends who are also coming home for the holiday. Just knowing he’ll be here feels so good to me, although I know it feels nearly opposite to him. It’s not that he doesn’t like being home and seeing me and his other family, it’s that his life is at school now, with his own group. He told me he doesn’t sleep well when he’s home, and doesn’t know why. I think it’s because he’d rather be in his world. We will always belong to one another, but he has his own life now, one in which he sleeps better than when he’s here…
It made me sad to hear that, but I got over it. It’s not personal in a mean way, it’s just life stages. I had a really different childhood experience, and was separated too early from my mother, after her divorce from my father (which was a very good thing for all of us, but still disruptive and chaotic). My son got to have a healthy, self-directed separation, and he’s so much less emotional or sentimental than I am, so it sucks for me…
We have the same sense of humor and like to talk about a myriad of subjects (when he’s willing to talk), but when he’s home and not with his friends, he prefers to spend his time reading or working on the computer.
I’m doing my best to find common interests to connect with him on, but it’s tough when our personalities and styles are so different. Maybe if he ever has children, we’ll get to re-bond then.
Rabbit, Rabbit. The ancient Celtic year begins today, marking the start of winter. Winter was already ushered in rather harshly with our recent Nor’easter dumping thirty inches of snow in some areas. I feel lucky that my town escaped with just over a foot of the heavy, wet snow. I was only out of power for part of a day, while some of my friends are yet to get back their electricity.
Yesterday, I visited my Mom because her phone was out and I wanted to make sure she made it through the storm alright, even though I know that one of my aunts was staying with her, and the guy who works for her and lives nearby would also have checked on her and I figured I’d have gotten a call if anything bad had happened. Then I thought that all phone service in the area might be out, and I just wanted to visit regardless of anything else. I was a bit worried that fallen trees or downed wires would prevent me from making it to my mother’s house, and it might well have earlier in the day because I saw evidence of cleared trees and other debris all the way there.
It was almost evening when I arrived, and I brought a flashlight in case it was dark by the time I left. My mom doesn’t have electricity or running water, so the storm changed nothing for her except interrupted phone service.
The glow of the kerosene lamps, and warmth from the wood stove, enveloped and welcomed me even as I was welcomed by my mother and aunt. They were happy for my unexpected company and we chatted about the snowstorm’s effects, and how weird it was to have a major storm before Hallowe’en, as we sipped coffee and evening began settling in. I don’t know if it was the time of day and the way the lamplight glowed and cast slight shadows on the walls, or the steamed windows and cooking smells from whatever dinner my mother was making, or simply spending time with my mother and one of her sisters, but there was something so extraordinary about being there that I noticed and enjoyed in the moment, and that feeling, or experience, actually, has stayed with me since.
I left before it was dark and made my way up the path without needing my flashlight. I noticed the stillness of the woods around me as I walked, and had a sense of being present to life in a way that I rarely sense.
I got up this morning and began working on things that I often think about doing rather than starting – or finishing. I feel my life changing, almost radically (for the better), and I hope that’s true.
On Hallowe’en, when I was around five or six (maybe even the same year I split my head open), my older siblings were allowed to leave on their own to go trick-or-treating, but I had to stay home until I finished my supper, and wait for my mom to get my little brother in his costume.
I remember thinking how completely unfair it was that I had to wait for my baby brother, and be treated ‘like a baby’, when my next oldest sister was only two years older than me, and she got to go out with my other sister and brothers. After enough complaints, my mother warned me that she could leave me home while she brought my brother around if I kept harassing her. I don’t think I uttered a word after that until we finally went out into the chilly night.
We had split-pea soup that night, which was one of my favorite dishes my mom made, but there would be no seconds that night. I wanted to get out there and trick-or-treat until my pillowcase was filled to the brim with candy! I never stopped to think how heavy it would be to actually fill a pillowcase full of candy. Back then, there were no ‘fun-sized’ candy bars, only full-sized bars, but people often gave things like small boxes of raisins, or popcorn balls, or apples. My mom would usually throw out anything that wasn’t store-bought, so I had to beg her let me keep a candied-apple one year, and she finally acquiesced after I badgered her so much that she told me it would serve me right if I found a razor-blade in the apple. I also think I lied and told her I knew who it was who gave me the apple, so she could have them arrested if I died.
All week before Hallowe’en I walked home from school singing the Five Little Pumpkins song, and felt a chill up my spine when I sang, “Oo, ooh went the wind, and out went the light…!” I would pull off any leaves still clinging to their branches that I could reach on my way home, as though that would hasten the arrival of the much-anticipated day.
My older sisters and brothers always ended up with more candy than I, or my younger brother ever got, and I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to get as much candy as them.
I drove to Boston to take my son out for a post-birthday lunch, and gave him some other little presents, that he loved, and one of my sisters was able to be there too, and she brought him some fun gifts too, and we had a really nice day spending time together. My son wasn’t feeling well, but he seemed to enjoy our company regardless.
After the visit with him I drove to stay with a friend at her cottage in Eastham, MA, at the Cape. It was a gorgeous warm and muggy day after the torrential rains we’d had the night before and through the early morning.
My friend’s place is right next to the ocean and is a lovely retreat. Another friend of hers is there for the weekend too, and we had a great night talking and laughing, eating pizza and having a beer while we watched a beautiful sunset from her deck. There is another cottage in front of hers that partially blocks the ocean view, but you can see enough to enjoy.
Today started out rainy and chilly, so I headed out earlier than I might have if it had been sunny when I woke up.
I’m going to spend some time with one of my brothers in Hyannis before I head back home. I stopped at a gas station and asked the totally cute attendant if he knew of a place I could get coffee that also had wi-fi. He directed me to, The Hot Chocolate Sparrow, where I am posting this from, an off-the-main-drag, quirky and hip coffee and chocolate shop that also serves sandwiches, pastries, and other food and beverages, as well as a few ‘gift shop’ type items, like greeting cards and some locally made goods.
When I first arrived it was quite busy but it’s slowed down significantly since I got here about forty-five minutes ago. My egg and cheese sandwich was one of the best I’ve ever eaten – and I’ve been hungry before and had such food – so it wasn’t just my hunger that made it taste so good! Their coffee is sensational, and I just might have to purchase some chocolate on the way out…
The sun came out, and I can see enough blue sky to make a dress (which my Grandmother always said meant it would be a nice day) from the shop’s A-frame windows since I’ve been sitting here, so I might also go down to the shore and search for shells when I leave.
This is how the day looked once I got outside:
I could be happy living here on Cape Cod; I just have to figure out how to afford it.
Twenty-one years ago I was pregnant with my son. I had wanted more children, but it didn’t work out that way. I can still have a child, but wouldn’t want to. It was a beautiful, balmy, late September day today, but it started out more overcast and muggy than it was twenty-one years ago. It was sunny by this afternoon, and I decided to take a drive in the hills. The leaves are just starting to turn, but the scenery was lovely anyway.
All those years ago I had woken up feeling fine, and had to run some errands. My mother was staying with me at my apartment in Vernon, Vermont, to help out after my son’s birth. I began feeling strange shortly after waking up, but thought it was just Braxton-Hicks contractions, so I went about my day, driving my mother into Brattleboro later that afternoon to do some grocery shopping. While we were at the grocery store, I began feeling more odd and nauseated, but I didn’t feel like I was having contractions because I had some serious contractions the week before and gone to the hospital in the middle of the night where I was chided by the nurse on duty for not knowing false contractions from true ones. If it were all happening again, I’d tell her what a stupid thing that was to say to someone who, a) never had a baby before, and 2) could have been in real labor regardless of what she thought. I know she was just taking out her bad day on me, but I wish I had been more outspoken back then!
So, I reluctantly went to the hospital so that they could run a monitor strip on me to check contractions. I got to the hospital around 5pm, and my mother and I were put in a room and the nurse on duty asked us if we wanted something to eat while we were waiting as it was dinner time. I had some peanut butter crackers because I wasn’t feeling very well, but thought I should eat something, and my mother got a meal. It was after 6pm by this time, and I was still waiting for the nurse to come and hook me up to the monitor when my water broke. My mother started laughing as I blurted out “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit”, while trying unsuccessfully to make it into the bathroom – as though I had an uncontrolled bladder issue…
The nurse came in moments later and said: “Well, you’re not going anywhere now!” I got moved into a room in The Birthing Center, and I told my mother she could just take my car back to my apartment until I had the baby and would have my sister drive me back, but my mother no longer had her license and didn’t feel comfortable driving in the dark anyway. My sister was living fairly close to the hospital so she was able to get Mom and have my brother-in-law bring her back to the apartment after my birth coach arrived.
My son’s dad was living in New Jersey during the week for work and told me he couldn’t get back until that Friday night or Saturday morning, and it was only Tuesday. That was disappointing, but not really unexpected. My birth coach, Ruth, was a friend I had known since college, and she had two teenaged girls and was probably the best person to have with me. I had decided to forgo any drugs, and even an episiotomy. (I’m just grateful being tied to a tree wasn’t still in vogue.) I was determined to do everything ‘right’. I ended up with forty-two stitches that my doctor said would have been less if I had let her do an episiotomy. Lesson learned, doc!
Not to be too graphic, but my response to the more intense contractions was throwing up. Ruth ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while I was resting, and I had to ask her to please chew some gum, or somehow get rid of the smell of peanut butter on her breath because it was making me more nauseated than I already was.
She laughed because I was worried about hurting her feelings. At the height of contractions (nearing the, literally, eleventh hour of labor) I told Ruth that I didn’t think I could keep doing it, and to her great credit she didn’t laugh at me, or roll her eyes, but just squeezed my hand and told me that I could, in fact, see it through. I didn’t freak out and scream like the clichéd ‘woman having a baby’ motif, but it was the hardest, most painful, experience I’ve ever endured. After my doctor sewed me up I told her that I was never going to have another baby. She said “If I had a nickel for every patient that said that, I could retire now!”
At 5:49am on September 26, 1990, I gave birth to an 8 lb.,1 oz., 19.5 inch long, beautiful boy. He remains the absolute best thing I have done in my life, and I would do it all again.
I love you, my dear son, more than I have ever loved anyone else. I am so happy I got to be your Mom.